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Education And Science

Volume 20: debated on Tuesday 16 March 1982

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Overseas Students

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what saving of public money has resulted from the increase in overseas students fees; and what proportion of the saving relates to Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth students respectively.

About £40 million of the previous £100 million total subsidy has so far been withdrawn. Under the old system, just over half the beneficiaries came from the Commonwealth.

Is proper priority now being given to Commonwealth students? Have Her Majesty's Government in mind the special position of Cyprus, which has no institutions of higher learning?

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has made available from his budget an increased number of bursuaries for Cypriots under the Commonwealth plan and the Government's plan for 1981–82. Indeed, the scheme administered on behalf of my Department by the committee of vice-chancellors has also made available support for outstanding postgraduate students. When the Overseas Students Trust report is concluded in the spring we shall be in a better position to see the overall picture on Cyprus.

How does the Minister justify the extra subsidy that the Government have now decided to give EEC students as a result of halving the home student fee, while giving no help to Third world students who need the money a great deal more? Will he make any further exceptions along the lines of the EEC subsidy?

Britain is a great beneficiary of the trade in students between the European Community and itself. On the latest figures available, about 4, 000 students from Britain go to Europe, whereas under 3, 000 students come here from the whole of the Community. Therefore, the balance of advantages is still very firmly with us.

Will my hon. Friend give great: weight to the report of the Overseas Students Trust, when it is released, on the options open to the Government'? When doing so, will he bear in mind the special position of dependent territories such as Hong Kong?

Does the Minister realise that this Draconian action against students from overseas is diminishing all the richness and diversity that they bring with them? Worse, it means that the wealthiest students come here instead of our disseminating education to those who need it most. Is this not a wretched approach?

The approach by means of funds earmarked by the Overseas Development Administration for the poorest students is aimed at meeting that problem in part. The hon. Gentleman's Government recognised that the old open-ended system could not continue and, of course, were the first significantly to increase overseas students' fees.

Would not my hon. Friend be well advised to carry out a comprehensive review of these increases and give a little more attention to long-term trends in the Commonwealth and to the need to improve political and commercial relationships between Britain and the Commonwealth, rather than concentrating so much on next year's departmental budget?

It is exactly for that reason that my Department, with other Departments, has given full co-operation to the Overseas Students Trust, which is producing a major report in the spring.

Will the Minister take into account the fact that it is impossible to visit any Commonwealth country or to speak in Britain to people visiting us from the Commonwealth without being made aware of the dismay and upset that they feel at Britain having turned its back on students from those countries?

That is a considerable exaggeration. We still take a large number of overseas students from Third world countries, especially from Third world Commonwealth countries. The numbers entering universities last year fell less dramatically than was predicted by some Labour Members.

Maintained Schools

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is his latest estimate of the number of surplus school places, primary and secondary, in the maintained schools in England by 1984; and what is his target for the numbers which should be taken out of use.

The 1977 study of school building estimated that by 1986 there would be 2·8 million surplus school places in maintained primary and secondary schools in England. Our target for the numbers to be taken out of use by March 1984 is 630, 000.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that he has given appropriate advice to the local authorities about whether they should reduce the number of children on a site or close some schools altogether?

Two circulars about falling rolls went out from the Department last year. The first said that secondary schools should have four streams and mentioned the necessity for a variety of teachers in middle schools. The second circular used the now well-known phrase "schools of proven worth", and said that good sixth forms should not be affected and that single sex schools should be maintained where there is demand for them.

In view of the undertaking that the Secretary of State gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) and others, will the Undersecretary tell us when he intends to publish the report of Her Majesty's Inspectorate, which was promised some weeks ago?

I have not asked my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State about that today, but I shall do so later. If we have any last minute information on the matter I shall communicate it to the hon. Gentleman.

After the big drop in the birth rate between the middle 1960s and the later 1970s, and the relatively small upturn since then, can my hon. Friend predict for primary and secondary schools respectively in which year school rolls are expected to fall to their lowest level and how far those levels will be below the present ones?

The pick-up in the birth rate is nothing like the previous fall. It is a pick-up, but it will certainly not fill the schools again. We suggested reducing places by only four out of every 10 surplus. Obviously, we now have peak numbers at secondary school level. Primary schools are different. The first pick-up will be in 1986–87 and there will be a second in 1992–93.

School Closures

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what criteria he has in mind when considering an application by a local authority for a school closure.

I consider all proposals on their individual merits, taking careful account of the educational and financial issues involved, including any representations made by parents, teachers and governors.

Is it not true that local authorities would prefer not to close schools and that Labour-controlled authorities especially wish to improve the pupil-teacher ratio, but that the Government give emphatic strength to the financial considerations and that Government cutbacks are forcing local authorities to consider the closure of nursery, primary and secondary schools? Will the right hon. Gentleman consider improving the educational component of the grant so that local authorities are not forced to make such invidious choices?

No Minister can make any mistake here. Of course closing schools is unpopular, but we must keep a balance between educational progress and public spending.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the House will be pleased that he said that he will always consider school closures on their merits? Can he take on board the closure of primary schools, especially in small villages, where sometimes it is not just a question of numbers but of educational opportunities? Even in a school with a small number of pupils, and perhaps only one teacher, that village is providing good education for the child and the child need not make a long or difficult journey on dangerous roads to another school.

What my hon. Friend said is a factor that Ministers bear very strongly in mind. There are educational advantages and disadvantages in small rural schools and we must try to take both into account.

Will the Secretary of State confirm that his circular on small schools was not intended to be a signal to local authorities to close village primary schools that could reasonably be kept open? Will he reiterate the sound advice given in the circular about the special problems of village primary schools?

I repeat that we try to take all the arguments for and against into account in each case and thus come to a decision on the merits in each case, including small rural and village schools.

In view of the enormous social, financial and educational problems encountered by families, children and communities as a consequence of school closures, will the Secretary of State consider changing the law and the financial arrangements so that bus services for school children who must travel longer distances can be fully restored to their 1979 position?

The balance of argument in each case is for the local education authority to decide. However, if the hon. Gentleman has a particular point to make, perhaps he will either write or speak to me.

Teachers (Pay)

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he has any plans to reorganise the pay structure of the teaching profession so that pay reflects to a greater degree than at present the supply of, and demand in, particular teaching skills.

The power to change teachers' salary structures lies not with me but with the Burnham committee. A working party of that committee is studying the whole area of salary structure, but there is no indication at present of general support for the concept of differential pay for teachers of certain subjects.

Despite that disappointing answer, does my right hon. Friend agree that in almost every activity in Britain pay tends to reflect the supply of the skill demanded? Therefore, would it not be right to move to a system whereby mathematics and physics teachers, who are in short supply, would be paid more than teachers in other subjects who are in over-supply? Is it not necessary to do that to secure the right teachers' skills, which are essential to our national future?

I am sympathetic to the general propositions postulated by my hon. Friend. The Cockcroft committee on mathematics teachers recommended a differential in their favour, while recognising that the Government already operate one. I am studying those recommendations at the moment.

Is the Secretary of State aware of the concern and anger that he has already caused in the teaching profession, let alone the concern that might be caused by anything new? Why will he not allow the present teachers' pay dispute to go to arbitration?

In considering the future pay structure, should not the Burnham committee consider whether teachers have had in-service training or attended a retraining course and act accordingly?

That is another good idea that I am sure should be taken into account. My representative on the Burnham committee is already associated with the proposals for revised salary structures put forward by the management side of the working party, but there are important questions still to be settled such as, for example, how the competence of teachers can best be assessed.

Will the Secretary of State tell us whether, when his representatives on the Burnham committee meet on Thursday as a management panel, they will be free to support a reference to arbitration of the teachers' pay dispute?

I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman really expects me to answer that question.

Sixth Forms

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is his policy towards the retention of school sixth forms; and if he will make a statement.

My right hon. Friend's views are set out in the draft circular issued far consultation on 24 November last.

Does my hon. Friend agree that sixth forms do a great deal for schools, that the pupils in those sixth forms acquire responsibility, and that if we move towards tertiary or sixth form colleges there is a risk that some of the better teachers might leave schools to go to those colleges, to the detriment of the school that they have left?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that sixth forms in schools provide a tried and tested way of educating youngsters at sixth form level.

How can the Minister know better than a local education authority how to organise its sixth form provision?

I remind the hon. Gentleman that the Secretary of State has a duty by statute to consider the proposals put to him by the local education authorities.

Does my hon. Friend agree that education is a matter of principle, and one needs to be guided by principles? Is it not a long-standing, accepted and widely valued principle that sixth forms in schools have given leadership and other benefits to schools that cannot come to them in any other way?

Is not the pressure for tertiary colleges now developing in the educational orbit and are not sixth forms, although they have played a valuable role, now at a stage where, if they become smaller and smaller, they will become separated from life around them, while tertiary colleges will mean a greater expansion of education and a rubbing of shoulders with many people beyond the school age in the same educational set-up?

The Government are not opposed to sixth form colleges and tertiary colleges. However, when a sixth form has proven its worth it would be wrong to destroy it. I accept that there may be specific, special and compelling reasons to examine the matter, and each case must be judged on its merits.

Aston University

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he has had further representations from Aston university regarding the reduction in its grant by the University Grants Committee.

As well as other representations received, my right hon. Friend and I have both visited Aston university recently and have been able to hear the views of staff and students at first hand.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the University Grants Committee has recommended the closure of the biological sciences department at Aston university? Does my hon. Friend agree that the kind of research carried on in this faculty, which involves close co-operation with industry on projects of great commercial potential, make it precisely the wrong place to close? Will my hon. Friend therefore urge the UGC to change its recommendations in this respect?

The UGC has recently written to the vice chancellor of Aston discussing his proposal to make larger cuts in engineering than proposed in order to keep open the biological sciences department. These matters are still under discussion between the university and the UGC.

Does the Under-Secretary agree with the statement made by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in a debate on television with the vice chancellor of Aston university that of the technological universities, only two have suffered cuts, while three have expanded, and eight have remained stable? Does the hon. Gentleman think, on reflection, that that statement can be justified, particularly with reference to Aston university?

Secondary Education (Croydon)

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science why, in announcing his decision on the reorganisation of secondary education in Croydon, his Department described the sixth form college system as novel and untried.

Croydon's proposals would have established a tertiary, not a sixth form, college. What was novel and untried was that the college would have been organised in five separate, semi-autonomous centres.

In view of that reply, will the Secretary of State make it clear that he is not trying to signal to local education authorities that they should avoid proposals involving either sixth form or tertiary colleges, because that is the impression that he has given so far in no less than three decisions? Will he make it clear that he is not trying so to change the role of the Secretary of State that he wholly excludes from consideration a system that has been tried and proved successful in a number of education areas?

I am not trying to exclude any particular solution. I am trying to put down the balance of arguments as I see them, following the draft circular that has been out for consultation in the last few months.

17-Plus Examination

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what linkage there will be between his plans for a course of education leading to an examination at 17-plus and the new training initiative.

These are complementary intiatives, and the youth training scheme is likely to have some elements in common with the new 17-plus courses. The forthcoming statement on the new qualification at 17-plus will describe arrangements for collaboration between the body which will be responsible for that qualification and the body responsible for the content of the youth training scheme.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that there has been sufficient consultation between his Department and the Manpower Services Commission to ensure that when the new examination course is established there is a fairly clear and obvious choice for people who are being advised, whether to take that route or to go on to one of the schemes under the new training initiative? Can he also tell us whether there is a possibility of a person moving from the 17-plus to another exam?

I am aware of my hon. Friend's great interest in this matter and I assure him that there has been constant and steady consultation. The only way that one could move from the 17-plus to the youth training scheme would be through unemployment, which we hope will not happen.

In view of the cuts in the grants for colleges of further education, how does the Minister intend to ensure that young people have the off-job training that has been guaranteed under the new training programme?

The hon. Lady is wrong. There have been increased grants for colleges of further education. There have been two increases: part of the £50 million allocated will go to colleges of further education. In addition, there is the further £35 million announced by my right hon. Friend in December.

While my hon. Friend is considering initiatives on the 17-plus, may I ask whether he agrees that some confusion would be caused if we were also to introduce a new 16-plus? Will he resist any pressures that may be brought to bear on him to merge GCE O-levels and CSE examinations?

That is a separate question, but I can tell my hon. Friend that the matter is under consideration.

How can the Minister guarantee that the extra money that he has just quoted will actually go to further education? How does he know that it will not be diverted to other parts of the education service that are desperately short of money or, for that matter, spent on mending holes in the roads under the block grant system?

Universities And Polytechnics

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what further representations he has received about the cuts in university and polytechnic allocations.

My right hon. Friend continues to receive a variety of representations about the financing of higher education.

Is the Minister aware that a few days ago a group of students from the Derby Lonsdale college of higher education and the Matlock college marched the 150 miles from Derbyshire to London to protest against the massive reduction imposed by the Government's cuts? Is it not true that the reductions in the number of places in colleges, universities and polytechnics will ensure that those who get special schooling pass the exams to get to Oxford and Cambridge, where the present intake from public schools is 47 per cent.? Therefore, will not that percentage rise because of the UGC cuts?

I shall reply to the hon. Member's point about the Derby colleges. My hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Parris) has been in regular consultation with me about Matlock, which is in his constituency. I have met a top level delegation of local authority and college leaders from Derby Lonsdale, and neither college faces insuperable problems.

With regard to universities, is there not evidence that after the initial shock the broad strategy set out by the UGC is gaining considerable acceptance? Is it my hon. Friend's experience, as it has been mine, that in a number of universities two speeches have been made, one for public consumption and one for private discussion?

The House will regard it as only natural that each institution makes as strong a case as it can. Needless to say, there are many within the university system—for example, Professor Bernard Crick and Professor Randolph Quirk—who have accepted that the university system has some weaknesses that are being put right.

Does the Under-Secretary agree, following my hon. Friend's question, that the broad strategy, as it has been described by one of his hon. Friends, is one that will reduce the age participation ratio and probably the qualified participation ratio as well, which has traditionally been high in this country, throughout the lifetime of this Parliament and far beyond? Is that an achievement that the Government can call a strategy?

The hon. Member knows that the Government have never disguised the fact that the age participation ratio for universities is bound to fall. It is necessary, in view of the savings that have to be made in public expenditure, that this is so.

Does my hon. Friend agree that since the economies in education have been advanced much nonsense has been talked on the subject, that expansion in the universities since 1960 has been over-rapid, and that some decrease in activities would be both desirable and reasonable?

I have heard many people inside the university system saying exactly the same thing.

Will the Minister help those hon. Members who have been approached by constituents who say "Last year my children would have gained a place at a university or polytechnic, but this year and in succeeding years under this Government they will not receive a higher education, although they have the same abilities"? What advice does the Minister suggest that we give those parents?

I advise the hon. Gentleman to tell those parents that the £200 million that the university system will be saving during the next few years will make a significant contribution, for example, to the expansion of training for 16 to 19-year-olds, which arguably is an even higher priority.

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will arrange to meet the University Grants Committee to discuss the financing of universities.

My right hon. Friend has frequent meetings with the chairman of the University Grants Committee, but has at present no plans to meet the committee formally.

Is the Minister aware that there are 8, 000 applicants for only 600 places at the University of Stirling next year, yet the UGC is still hell-bent on imposing a 27 per cent. cut in student numbers and a 23 per cent. cut in recurrent grant? Will the Minister intervene now and give more money to the UGC to enable universities such as Stirling to take in more, not fewer, students? Or is it now official Government policy to throw more and more well-qualified young people on to the dole queue, instead of giving them a place in higher education?

The hon. Gentleman knows that the policy of Her Majesty's Government remains that of their predecessor, which is that they will not intervene in specific recommendations of the UGC. That remains our policy.

Is the Minister aware of the fine relationship that exists between Lancaster university and the Edge Hill training college? Is he aware of the danger of the closure of the Edge Hill training college by the Lancashire county council? Has he any comment to make? If not, will he look into the matter, with a view to safeguarding the future of that fine training college?

I visited Lancaster university and had an interesting discussion with staff there. I am not aware of the problem to which the hon. Gentleman refers, and I shall write to him about it.

As my hon. Friend visited Aberdeen university recently, does he accept that, in view of the devastating effect that the UGC cuts will have on that university, it might be a good idea if he and his right hon. Friend met the chancellor again to see what can be done about that important university, where oil and gas technology is being acquired by people who are bringing cash into the country?

My hon. Friend exaggerates when he refers to the "devastating" of Aberdeen university. Aberdeen university is a fine university with a long tradition. It will complete its 500th anniversary, and I have no doubt that in due course it will complete its millennium. Any help that my hon. Friend can give in increasing the contribution made by local industry to that university, which undoubtedly is doing much for the oil industry and which in my view does not receive the support that it should from the oil industry, would, I am sure, be welcomed by the university.

Does the Under-Secretary recall from his visit the other day that the principal made it clear that the effect on Aberdeen will be serious, damaging to the career structure, and damaging to the university? Is he aware that there is great resentment in the university in that on 23 February it received a curt one-paragraph letter saying that nothing had changed, despite all the representations made to him and to the UGC? Does it not show that his visits to universities are a fatuous public relations exercise, costing a great deal of money, and to no purpose? Would it not be a service to universities if he resigned, instead of being the Secretary of State's poodle?

I shall not take up the suggestion in the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's question. No one underestimates the problems that are being faced by Aberdeen university, but it has resources available to it that will enable it to solve those problems satisfactorily.

When my hon. Friend next meets the University Grants Committee, will he discuss with it the reduction in the number of degree courses for the clothing and textile industry, which is the second largest employer in the United Kingdom? With the closure of the courses at Bradford and the possible reduction in the courses at UMIST and Leeds, this industry is suffering. Bearing in mind that we need high technology courses in this industry, will he discuss this matter with the University Grants Committee?

This subject is a classic example of one that is taught across the binary line, both in polytechnics and colleges, and in universities. We are now in a position to plan to concentrate resources on the necessary but relatively small subjects that he mentions, and I have no doubt that the national advisory board and the UGC will discuss textile and other clothing subjects.

Does the Under-Secretary accept that the contributions of the hon. Members for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) and for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. McQuarrie) are only the latest in a series of plaintive cries from his right hon. and hon. Friends, and that it would be more honest for him to answer the question "Cannot something be done?" with the answer "No, Sir, there is nothing we will do, because we in the Conservative Party believe that there are too many degree-giving institutions open to too many people spending too much money, and we believe that they should be cut to a point where we restore the elitism of a previous generation"?

The hon. Gentleman should remember that at the end of these cuts there will probably be more students in the system than there were during the last year of his Government.

Primary Schools (Pupil Costs)

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how much was spent per pupil in primary schools in England in real terms in the most recent year for which figures are available.

Net institutional recurrent expenditure per primary pupil in England in 1980–81 was £547, the highest level ever recorded, both in cash and real terms.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that those figures show that the Opposition talk a great deal of nonsense when they talk about cuts in primary education expenditure?

My hon. Friend is quite right, but we should remember that there are difficulties in schools, because falling rolls involve diseconomies of scale, and there is mismatch. We should not be euphoric, although we should always remember that in real terms there was a record level of expenditure per child in that year.

As the Secretary of State has not communicated the information to his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science, the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson), will he tell the House when he intends to publish the report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate on education standards in schools in England and Wales?

Although that is a different question, I am glad to repeat that I shall publish the report as soon as I receive it.

Sex Education

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he is satisfied that there are sufficient legal safeguards to enable a parent to withdraw his child from sex education in schools if such education is contrary to that parent's philosophy.

We have made it clear that there should be the fullest consultation and co-operation between schools and parents about the way in which sex education is provided.

I thank my hon. Friend for that sensible reply. Is he aware that the sexual propaganda of organisations such as the Family Planning Association and the Brook Advisory Centres is considered by many people to be immoral and dangerous? Can parents be protected from it by having the right to take their children away from lessons if necessary?

I accept that some of the material that has gone into schools would be repulsive to everyone in the House. Indeed, we asked for some to be taken away last year, and we are asking for more to be taken away now. The right of withdrawal from the class when sex education is taking place was considered. In the 1980 Act we said that every school would have to provide information on the way that sex education was taught. This must also be discussed with parents before being put into operation.

Will the Minister reject the Neanderthal attitude of his hon. Friend? Of course it is a matter for parents. No one denies that. However, if they are not willing or able to take on that duty, does not the Minister think that there should be properly structured help from teachers, who are trained to provide this help at school? Will the Minister consider the matter carefully, because it is an urgent problem?

I do not believe that we increase parents' responsibility by taking responsibility from them. Such education is the responsibility of parents. The problem in schools is how to teach sex education as a subject that teaches the children about personal responsibility for all relationships. Also, in schools, if the discovery method is taught the children will go out and use it.

Further And Higher Education

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will take steps to ensure the continuation of part-time courses in further and higher education.

The Government recognise the importance of part-time provision in further and higher education in meeting the needs of individuals and of industry and commerce; and we would encourage the local education authorities and their institutions, whose responsibility this is, to continue to give prominence to such provision.

Does the Minister agree that part-time courses for mature students in further and higher education are among the most cost-effective of education services, particularly when students, such as those at Birkbeck college, are paying the fees themselves? As such courses provide an efficient form of education and self-help, do not they go along with Government philosophy in both these respects? Therefore, why are those courses having to be cut?

As I have already told the House, the provision for further education has been substantially increased. It is true that the number of part-time courses in non-advanced further education has reduced in contrast to full-time and sandwich courses. This is partly due to unemployment. However, I remind the hon. Gentleman that by 1984–85 there will be about 50, 000 places in UVP.

I think that we shall need a translation of those last remarks in the Official Report. Will the Minister undertake an inquiry into the full-time equivalent conversion factors involved in both sides of higher education, because there is a great deal of evidence that they militate against the way in which part-time and mature student courses are carried on in those institutions?

I understand the point that the hon. Gentleman makes. As he knows, the conversion factor is based on an annual survey carried out by the Department. However, perhaps I can reassure the hon. Gentleman by saying that the newly established National Advisory Body for Local Authority Higher Education is setting up a working group to examine the data base for its work. The issue that the hon. Gentleman mentioned will be one of those studied.

Secondary Education (Manchester)

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he expects to complete consultations on the Manchester local education authorities' revised proposals for secondary education; and if he will announce his decision in time for implementation in 1982.

I wrote to the hon. Member on 10 March advising him that, immediately following the completion of consultations, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State had approved Manchester's proposals.

I welcome the early announcement, which will enable changes to take place this year, although it is 14 months since Manchester submitted its application. Does the Minister agree that Manchester acted urgently and correctly in recognising the problem of falling school rolls? The Government have since told all local education authorities to do the same. What has been the response?

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's kind remarks about the early announcement. I should tell him that we had the new proposals for only about two weeks before we approved them. That is productivity of which the country can be proud. With regard to the rest of the country, the number of places taken out of use last year with Government approval was twice that of the previous year.

What undertakings have been given by the Manchester city council to ensure that there is no bad effect arising from the city council's policies on the recruitment to the three excluded schools or on the careers structure of their staff?

I am aware of my hon. Friend's concern about that matter. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State met the Manchester education committee to discuss that matter and to ensure that there was no movement away of child population that would deprive the three retained sixth forms of their natural catchment. An assurance was given by the authority that that would not happen.

National Advisory Body For Local Authority Higher Education

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what arrangements are being made for representation of, and consultation with, non-teaching staffs and colleges and polytechnics by the new National Advisory Body for Local Authority Higher Education.

The National Advisory Body for Local Authority Higher Education is in the process of constructing effective liaison machinery for those interest groups without direct representation on its board.

Does the Minister appreciate that the composition of the board does not include the National and Local Government Officers Association, which has 10, 000 members in polytechnics and a large number of members in colleges? Will he take steps to ensure that non-teaching unions are represented?

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be pleased to hear that the president of the union that he mentioned, by which I believe the hon. Member is sponsored, has been invited to join one of the, working groups on the national advisory board.